Officer Who Missed Gun In Runaway Suicide Suspended; Firing Recommended
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (AP) _ The police chief has suspended and recommended firing an officer who searched a runaway but failed to find a gun the teen-ager later used to kill himself.
Louis Solomon, 15, pulled the trigger of a .22-caliber snub-nosed revolver he was holding to his head March 12 just as police shot him with a stun gun after three hours of pleading with him not to kill himself.
The medical examiner’s office is investigating whether firing electrical darts from the non-lethal, Taser stun gun caused the youth to pull the trigger by causing an involuntary muscle reaction.
Police Chief David Milchan suspended Officer Lynn Ruch on Monday for five days without pay for allegedly not thoroughly searching Solomon, even after Ruch found bullets in his pocket. Milchan said he also recommended Ruch be fired because it was the second time the policeman failed to find a weapon during a search.
Milchan said no other officers were disciplined in the case because he did not feel any others violated rules or regulations.
City Manager Ronald P. Forbes will decide whether to fire Ruch, who has five days to request a hearing.
Last week, Ruch was taking Solomon and a companion in for questioning after finding them sleeping in a doorway at a shopping plaza, police said. The youths had escaped a week earlier from a residential juvenile rehabilitation program in North Miami Beach, according to authorities.
At the police station, Solomon pulled a revolver from his trousers and threatened suicide, police said.
Milchan said Ruch had found bullets in Solomon’s pocket and questioned the boys about a gun. ″They said it had been left behind,″ the chief said.
Ruch, 32, joined the Pinellas Park department in 1980. Personnel records show he received a written reprimand after he searched a burglary suspect in 1983 and did not find a weapon. Later, police found a small gun hidden in the police car.
Milchan said he doesn’t believe a shock from the stun gun caused Solomon to fire.
″I think he had every intention of shooting himself, and he did,″ Milchan said.
Milchan produced a tape which he said was made by Solomon and his friend, Timothy Crothers, on a recorder stolen from a Pinellas Park home. In the conversation, a voice which Milchan identified as Solomon’s, said: ″If they corner me, I’m going to play suicidal on them.″
Another voice, which police believe was Crothers, said: ″We have a gun, folks. Will we use it? Try me.″